Number the Stars

by: Lois Lowry

Study Questions

1

According to Number the Stars, why would growing up in a time of war make the normal process of maturing more complicated?

As a child matures, she goes through a time of questioning. Comparing herself to the examples she sees, a judgment is made about behavior. She wonders if she behaves like a child or like an adult. The war forces Annemarie to be more mature in certain situations, but in others she must be protected because she is so young. Under the unusual circumstances of war, individuals, both young and old, must adapt to different roles. Annemarie needs to be responsible in ways she would not have to normally. This gives her the impression of being more like an adult. But she is also kept from knowing too much, because it would be inappropriate to tell a person her age everything about the war. So she is sometimes treated like an adult, and sometimes treated like a child. Annemarie is unsure where she stands because she is in the natural process of growing older. But this process is made more difficult for her by the demands and restrictions that living during a war put on her.

2

Discuss how a war might be compared to a fairy tale or fictional story.

Fairy tales are made-up stories that often contain elements of pure fantasy. Much of what happens in fairy tales could not happen in real life. Part of the thrill of hearing a fairy tale is feeling a frisson of horror when an evil being tries to eat children, or a monster chases an inquisitive child. But war can be so horrible that it may seem unreal in the way that fairy tales are unreal, and war can make real the violence that seems impossible in fairy tales. Lowry draws a parallel between fairy tales and war in order to highlight the unimaginable atrocity of war. The way that humans treat each other during a war is often beyond what we are able to imagine. Thus war may appear to be more like fiction than a reality. In fairy tales, the lines are clearly drawn between the good and evil forces, and there is an assumption that those who do violence will be punished. In war, the forces of good and evil are not so clearly defined, and the violence-doers sometimes go unpunished.

3

Discuss Lowry's idea that fear does not make bravery impossible.

Bravery is an issue that Annemarie deals with throughout Number the Stars. She constantly tries to measure her own bravery against her parents' and Peter Neilsen's actions and bravery. Annemarie concludes that her fear will keep her from being brave. She hopes that she will never have to demonstrate her courage. But Annemarie is able to be brave when she must be. Uncle Henrik speaks to her about his own experience and admits to feeling fear, as she does. He helps Annemarie to see that doing something despite your fear is the truest form of bravery. This is a significant discovery for Annemarie because it allows her to see that adults are vulnerable, too. Because the people in Number the Stars experience fear, they are realistic. Lowry does not create a super-human heroine. She infuses Annemarie with the same concerns that any child might have, in a war or in regular life.